Targeted surveillance

Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing
State minister for CHT Affairs

spe02Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing was asked, since you are a ‘tribal’ and it was decided at the 7th January 2015 meeting at the home ministry that if  a ‘tribal’ were to meet deshi-bideshi individual/organisation in the CHT, members of the local administration and army/BGB would need to be present, did this happen in your case as well when you went to the CHT as state minister in pursuit of official duties? The minister retorted, ‘Why? This never happened.’
When asked whether this was due to ministerial privilege, he answered, ‘Why should it happen? I hold meetings in my areas and in open places.’
Bir Bahadur said that he was not sure whether the restrictions had been relaxed or withdrawn. ‘I need to inquire about the matter,’ he said.
— Mohiuddin Alamgir

Ahmed Kamal

spe03Historians of India have always been and are still “reluctant to see the tribals as part of India,” writes Mahasweta Devi, in her ‘Foreword’ to Meena Radhakrishana’s Dishonoured by History : Criminal Tribes and British Colonial Policy (2001). Do you think Bangladeshi historians suffer from the same problem?
Bangladeshi historians suffer from the same problem. In some cases, the problem is even worse than it is with Indian historians.
Our historians could have paid attention to the Chittagong Hill Tracts when Manabendra Narayan Larma (founding leader of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti) opposed the draft constitution of Bangladesh, which made official the supremacy of Bengali culture by not recognising that non-Bengali ethnic communities reside in Bangladesh. The constitution declared all citizens to be Bengalis.
Since then, so many things, including conflicts, have happened in the CHT region. Access to documents and evidence, based on which history is written, has become limited. Such constraint of information could be a reason for the lack of proper attention to the region by historians. Another important aspect of history is that it deals with changes in socio-economic and political arenas but we cannot see much of a change in the areas. This is another reason historians are not paying attention to the matter.
Mainstream history always tends to legitimise the outlook of the dominant classes which run the affairs of the state. This practice is not unique to our country. It began with the British rulers, it still continues. However, some changes have started taking place with the growth of subaltern studies, which focuses on the role of dominated social forces in the process of state formation.
— Mohiuddin Alamgir


Barrister Sara Hossain
Human rights advocate

spe04Does the targeted surveillance of whole groups by birth, as evidenced in the recent Home Ministry circulars, violate the principle of individual rights as enshrined in the Constitution?
The reports of a government order which purports to prohibit any citizen from holding meetings in one area of the country without prior government permission, seems to violate a whole series of our fundamental rights, guaranteed by the Constitution. These include the rights to equality, equal protection under law, and the rights to freedom of  association and expression. It  also appears grossly arbitrary and grossly discriminatory – to give an example a person from the plains, say Dhaka, can meet with colleagues in the Hills, say Dighinala, to discuss issues relating to the hills, freely while they are in the plains in Dhaka – but only with prior permission when in the hills – e.g. in Dighinala. Why should a person in Dighinala be subjected to this restriction? Why should the person in Dhaka face this restriction? What about a Bangladeshi organisation which operates in the CHT – for example a private bank, or a telecom company, or any children’s rights organisation? Should they get prior permission every time they want to organise an internal staff meeting?
Earlier there were reports that any person who went to the Hills to meet a ‘tribal’ person would need prior permission. This would have meant that any adibashi Bangladeshi living in the Hills who wanted to meet a family member from the Plains would need prior permission. What would happen to mixed couples for example our friends and the famous artists Kanak Champa Chakma and Khaled Mithu? Should they have a BGB member permanently stationed in their bedroom when they visit the CHT? I understand that this order may have been withdrawn now but it is disturbing to see that people with mindsets which allows framing such incredibly discriminatory and derogatory decisions, totally disrespectful of human dignity and diversity are sitting within an administration which prides itself on its commitment to pluralism.
— Rahnuma Ahmed

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